Authorities on Thursday assured lawmakers that the various modes of public transportation in Metro Manila are ready to go back to operations once quarantine restrictions ease in the metropolis.
During the virtual hearing of the House Committee on Transportation, panel chair Edgar Mary Sarmiento asked representatives from the air, maritime, rail, and land transportation sector about their readiness to resume operations in case President Rodrigo Duterte lifts the modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and nearby areas come August 19.
Manila International Airport Authority director general Ed Monreal, for one, said that they are "very much ready in terms of operation."
"We will abide by the restrictions being given by the regulatory body," he said.
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general Jim Sydiongco said that all airports in the Philippines remain operational, except that there were passenger restrictions in areas under a higher level of quarantine.
Civil Aviation Board director Carmelo Arcilla, meanwhile, said they are working on policies that would balance the interest of airlines and passengers amid the impact of COVID-19 in the aviation sector.
"We are liberalizing certain policies and we are receptive to contingencies. We are ready for the reopening," he said.
For the maritime sector, Philippine Ports Authority general manager Jay Santiago reported a reduction of the volume of passengers at the Manila North Harbor due to the ongoing MECQ and the moratorium set by the destination provinces.
Nevertheless, all other ports in the country are "business as usual," he added.
"We have already instituted the new health protocols being required by the Department of Health and the Department of Transportation, particularly on thermal scanning, on the use of face masks and face shields, as well as contact tracing and social distancing," Santiago said.
"So our ports are in normal operations and we are ready in Manila North Harbor should Metro Manila be downgraded to general community quarantine," he added.
As to the rail industry, acting assistant general manager Atty. Celeste Lauta said the Philippine National Railways (PNR) is also ready to resume operations once the MECQ is lifted.
She reported that they are currently running three to four PNR departmental trains to maintain its rail tracks and ensure that its infrastructure are safe.
"Currently we are taking the opportunity for the maintenance of the tracks and the trains, cleaning and disinfection of our facilities and we are still doing the installation of COVID-related measures," Lauta said.
Light Rail Transit Authority spokesman Hernando Cabrera, for his part, said LRT-2 trains and stations are ready to go back to operation, and they are currently installing e-loading machines in time for their resumption.
"Ang ginagawa naman namin ngayon is nag-install kami ngayon ng e-loading machines. Electronic na ang paglo-load ng ating mga ticket," he said.
"Instead of cash yung ating mga pasahero, they will be using yung kanilang mga bank facilities to load yung kanilang mga ticket, This is another measure para ma-avoid yung contact between yung teller at yung paggamit ng mga pera," he added.
Land transportation sector
In regard to land transportation, Transportation Assistant Secretary Steve Pastor assured lawmakers that the number of bus units operating in Metro Manila will be increased.
Currently, there are around 4,600 authorized bus units in the National Capital Region, but only 3,662 units have special permits as others are still being checked by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) as to their compliance with the requirements, he said.
"But rest assured that we will increase, through the LTFRB, the number of authorized units and allowed to operate per transportation mode post-MECQ," he added.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority general manager Jojo Garcia, meanwhile, gave updates on the installation of concrete barriers along EDSA.
"Yung ating concrete barriers, ilalagay na lang natin yan sa loading/unloading bays para at least maprotektahan yung ating mga pedestrian sa loob," he said.
"But after nun, puro bollards na lang yan na five to 10 meters ang layo at may chain sa gitna, para in case may masira or may emergency, pwedeng buksan yung chain at makalabas yung mga sasakyan," he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metro Manila and surrounding provinces under MECQ beginning August 4th and ending on the 18th, in response to the call of the medical community as health workers were already exhausted due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases being brought to hospitals. —LBG, GMA News